Wonderful Wood Anemone

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinquefolia) is a flowering member of the 150 species of  Ranunculaceae of the Buttercup family.  Sometimes called Crowfoot, Windflower or Smell Fox, it thrives in shady woodland areas.  It can be planted up very close to other types of later flowering shrubs and plants.  

A fabulous perennial border herb, this flowering beauty can easily grow among hostas, dicentras and geraniums.  They are produced from rhizomes that are long, thin and brown.  Plant them sideways in damp and shady spots in the spring, because they prefer partial to full shade.  They can also be planted in rock gardens, beneath trees or shrubs or in beds and around borders where there is plenty of shade.  They favor loamy moist, peat or acidic soil.

Easily produced from seed, this plant can offer an abundance of beautiful flowers during the spring and it’s a very attractive addition to any flower garden or bed. 

The flower has no honey and very little scent.  It is fertilized by visiting insects to its stamens.  They are long-blooming, lasting from four to six weeks and return each year.  The white, star-shaped flowers are pastel in coloring, producing white, blue, pink and lilac flowers with yellow centers.  Most of these have about six or seven petals, but some varieties have double flowers. Leaves of this plant are fern-like and grow in whorls about halfway up the stems.  Leaves are either simple or compound with lobed, parted or undivided leaf blades.   There may or may not be feathery hairs attached to the plant.  It flowers between May and June. 

Other blooming varieties include the Alba (white occasionally with pink), Allenii (dark blue with yellow centers in the flowers), Pentre pink (pink), Robinsoniana (lavender-blues or lilac flowers), Vestal (double white) and Wilk’s Giant (white blooms with yellow centers). 

Its fruit is ovoid to obovoid shaped achenes that are in a tight cluster at the end of variously lengthened stalks.  Some species have sessile clusters that terminate at the stems.  

Harvest the cut flowers early in the mornings while it’s still a little cooler outside and while the blooms are still closed.  Place them in room temperature water out of the direct sunlight and they will bloom beautifully for about nine days. 

Anemone combine very well with spring-flowering bulbs and wildflowers.  You may divide the clumps of flowers in the early Fall by digging up and pulling apart the rhizomes.  They may become dormant during summer drought periods. 

Unfortunately, Anemone species are occasionally the victims of cutworms, the larvae of the noctuid moths like Angle Shades.   It is also often attacked by certain fungi.  A species of Puccinia may elect to settle upon it and the stalks of the infected leaves will grow rapidly.  A species of Sclerotinia also attacks the tuberous roots. 

Anemone is a perfect plant for naturalizing woody areas of your yard or garden.  It is both deer and rabbit resistant.  Sometimes Anemone are called Windflowers because they unfold their blossoms around windy days of March. 

Wood anemone has a bitter taste and is poisonous.  However, vinegar made from the leaves and retaining the acid properties of the plant can be used externally, the same way that Mustard is used. 

Ancient Romans carried the Anemone as a charm for protection against fevers.  Ancient herbalists called it the “Wood Crowfoot” because the leaves resemble the shape of some species of “Crowfoot”.  They recommended the use of various parts of the plant for headaches, rheumatism and gout.  

It was once believed that bathing in the juice stomped from the leaves, as well as, sniffing it up the nose, would cure leprosy, sometimes chewed for lethargy and rheumatism.  It has been used as an ointment on the eyelids for relief of inflammation and for malignant ulcers.  However, Modern medicine experts recommend that its root not be chewed because of the poison present in the plant.